Dad’s Guide to Finding Functional Furniture and Gear

By Sharon Perkins, Stefan Korn, Scott Lancaster, Eric Mooij

Setting up a nursery will frequently fall to dads. Crib, bassinet, dresser, changing table, rocking chair, bookshelves, toy boxes — the nursery is one place you can spend a whole bunch of money on all new stuff if you’re not careful.

Here are some of the basic items you need to set up a nursery.

Somewhere to sleep

For the first few months, most babies like to sleep in an enclosed space like a bassinet or other small area. Many parents use play yards, which are small playpens that often have a bassinet area that fits on the top, for the first few months.

A bassinet is like a basket on legs. If the bassinet is on wheels, you can move it from room to room easily during the day for naps (babies can sleep anywhere when they’re newborns) and wheel it into either your room or the nursery at night. When baby has outgrown the bassinet he can graduate to a crib, where he’ll sleep until he’s about two or has figured out how to climb out of it.

If you’re getting a secondhand crib or bassinet, check it thoroughly to make sure nothing could fall apart and injure your baby. Older cribs may not satisfy current safety regulations, which state that crib rails must be no more than 23⁄8 inches apart. You should not be able to fit more than two fingers between the mattress and crib side. Side rails that lower can also be dangerous for your baby.

Check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website, Safe to Sleep.

Somewhere to be changed and dressed

A lot of parents buy changing tables — tables at the right height so you don’t have to lean a lot to change baby’s diapers or get her dressed. Some experts advocate that babies should be changed on the floor to avoid having baby roll off a changing table, but others just stand by the rule that baby is never left on the table unsupervised — even for a second. Whichever you choose, having a changing mat or a load of cloth diapers to have under her to catch protein spills — pee, poop, or vomit — is essential.

Even if you’re going the disposable diaper route, a few packages of cloth diapers can be a very helpful accessory. They can act as changing mats, can be put over your shoulder to catch any baby spit-up when you’re burping her, can be used to protect the couch for a quick change, and are handy to clean up spills when you’re out and about. They’re inexpensive, washable, and very hardy, and every diaper bag should have one or more.

Somewhere to store clothes

You would think that a person so small wouldn’t need much room for her clothes, but she grows so big so fast that she needs room to store not only the clothes she currently fits into, but also the ones she grows into. Hand-me-downs and presents from well-meaning friends and family mean clothes are rarely in short supply. Child-sized hangers for her wardrobe can be bought from a houseware or discount store.

If you’re given too many hand-me-down clothes, having a system in place for sizing stops you from feeling overloaded. Have designated boxes for each size and store them in your baby’s closet or dresser. As she grows out of one size, you’ve got another size ready to go. This is a great job for you when your partner goes through a period where she can’t organize herself out of a paper bag because of all the hormones going crazy during pregnancy or after birth.

Odds and ends you can’t live without

Other things that are handy to have include the following:

  • A diaper bucket with a tight-fitting lid for soaking soiled clothing, bedding, and cloth diapers.
  • A clothes hamper or basket.
  • A rocking chair or armchair where mom can breastfeed or you can give the last bottle of the day before bed. An armchair or rocking chair is also somewhere to share stories, songs, and cuddles as your baby gets bigger. Some moms find chairs without arms most comfortable, so try out a few options. Many come with an ottoman or recline.
  • A pedal trash can with a lid — the big size if you’re using disposable diapers. Yes, the pedal is essential!
  • Something to house toys and books, such as a bookshelf or toy box.
  • Diaper cream or powder, wipes, and other toiletries in arm’s reach of where you change your baby.
  • A lockable medicine box where you store health items like pain-relief medications, a thermometer, and nail clippers.